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With a name like Tainted Love, you’d expect this pop-rock tribute band from the Bay Area to specialize in “new wave” classics of the ‘80s, such as that ubiquitous radio tune from Soft Cell that gave it its name.

But take a look at these artists on Tainted Love’s regular playlist: Whitney Houston, AC/DC, Springsteen, Prince. That’s not exactly a one-hit-wonder collection, and it’s not just the post-punk end of the pop-rock spectrum.

As it happens, it’s that diversity that has been a factor to help Tainted Love transcend “just another cover band” status and play larger venues at home and along the West Coast. It returns to Harrah’s Tahoe on Jan. 16.

It’s a quest for a challenge that drives this diversity, Tainted Love singer Chad Roman said.

“Everybody likes to push the envelope and play things that other bands just don’t play,” Roman said from his home in the Bay Area the afternoon after a sold-out New Year’s Eve gig in San Francisco. “We found out that we are a band that can do songs that are more intricate or might take other people too much time to figure out the parts, or because they just aren’t standard bar anthems to get people going.”

Roman gave one example: British musician and alternative rock pioneer Peter Gabriel. That band does several of Gabriel’s most popular tunes, and Roman admits it’s really challenging.

“There’s a lot of texture to his songs,” Roman said. “The vocals are really difficult, but fortunately, (fellow singer) Jeremy (Briggs) does a great rendition of Peter. He doesn’t sound exactly like him, but he captures that vibe. When we do the songs, it’s a surprise for the audience I think. We’re reintroducing Peter Gabriel to younger people (laughs).”

Tainted Love also features Steve Moon on keyboards, Jason Muscat on bass, Jeff Suburu on guitar and Trey Sabatelli on drums. Roman and Briggs are joined by third vocalist Brett Pels (to whom Roman is married). Roman said the three-singer combination is a key to the band’s success and longevity.

“We can cover any range of vocals and can also cover any background vocals that may be in the songs,” he said. “It’s also our commitment to getting it right and getting the vibe of each song perfectly. We have the best guys, the best talent in the band. All of our guys are super-experienced from other bands.”

The band has been around since 1996, although Pels is the only original member. While they are popular enough to play casino theater rooms or large corporate events, Roman said there was a climb to get to that point, and that every band like his should expect that.

“You’ve got to do the Thursday night, every week at some bar somewhere,” he said. “I don’t want to say, ‘Pay your dues,’ because that’s super cliché. But, you need to do a bar-type gig where you build up that following. That might not be an ideal situation, but that’s how we did it – those Thursday bar nights for 10 years, over and over. It was slow, but from that we got the recognition for a better show and started to get the private gigs, which is what we thrive on now.”

Roman was especially happy to be returning to Harrah’s Tahoe. “We were lucky that we’ve eliminated the less savory venues,” he said with a hearty laugh, “and now we can play a play like Harrah’s. To have a big enough following to play a place like that, that’s a great experience.

“Harrah’s is such a cool venue and a nice place to hang out. It has that history, and we could play in a place like that forever. It’s a great feeling.”

When asked about what songs get those crowds going, Roman had a funny analogy:  “We always joke about people going to a favorite pizza place and just wanting pepperoni, not the fancy stuff,” Roman said. “For us, that’s Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ or (Rick Springfield’s) ‘Jessie’s Girl.’”

Roman also cited two other quite diverse numbers – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard as big hits with the crowd. “And, really, anything we do by AC/DC, especially ‘You Shook Me All Night Long,’” he added. “They’ve got that appeal where even at a wedding, grandma and grandpa can get into it.”

Roman said it’s the danceability of ‘80s tunes, no matter the genre, that have helped them endure: “It’s an up-tempo, good-feeling vibe. Some of the stuff from the ‘70s had some darkness to it. Even though there were a lot of songs then that were awesome, the dance beat really took over most music in the ‘80s. Those songs are appropriate for a lot of different situations, and there are not a lot of dark corners. It’s all up-tempo and bright and fun.”

The fashions of that era were also bright and fun – but haven’t endured as well. Roman said he knows this, but they have fun with the stage costumes anyway.

“We just try to wear things that are flashy and more rock-n-roll than the people in the crowd,” he said. “That’s not necessarily stuff that’s straight out of the ‘80s but we keep to the colors and general vibe.”

Plans for Tainted Love in 2016 include a return back to the East Coast, where they haven’t played in several years.

“We used to do a mini-tour of New York and Boston,” Roman said. “We definitely have some fans out there.”

Note: This show is for ages 21 and older.

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